July 10, 2022

National Policy on Education: Declaring the End of Public Education

Rajeev Kunwar

IN the era of the Corona crisis, finally, the 'New Education Policy 2020' was passed by the union cabinet and given the status of legislation. Legally, this is a huge policy change. Especially with all the education policies made after independence. Be it the first committee formed under the leadership of educationist Radhakrishnan or later the committee of educationists which was headed by D S Kothari - the meaning of education and its purpose was to build the nation. Unfortunately, the present education policy has been made with the vision of corporate houses and not academicians. During the time of Atal Bihari Vajpayee, the Birla-Ambani Committee was formed for the first time under the pressure of the World Bank and domestic and foreign capital. It was not a committee of academicians.

The report submitted by this committee on the global prospects of business in the field of education in the neoliberal era and suggestions for changes for it is known as the Birla-Ambani report. Since then, Manmohan Singh's government has taken forward the same suggestions to date. Due to the Common Minimum Programme in UPA-I, not much advancement could be made in this direction.  In the meantime, the three structural changes that were secretly implemented across the country through the office order through the UGC, today are working as the foundation of the new education policy - the same educational system in the whole country - semester system, grading system. and Choice Based Credit System (CBCS).


The biggest obstacle to making profits for the global capital was the different educational systems across the country. Education was earlier placed on the state list. It was put on the Concurrent List during the Emergency. The academic session was different due to the natural and cultural diversity of all the states. For example, Delhi University which is a central university - its academic session was going on since the time of the British and was based on the academic session of England. In Bihar, instead of winter vacation, the holidays started from Durga Puja till Chhath. This form of holiday was not there in Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu. All the states used to make their own academic calendar according to their place. Most of the university studies were conducted on an annual basis. Whereas a university like JNU had a semester system. The academic calendar at Delhi University was an annual examination, but there were some courses which were semester-based. The method of evaluation also differed from state to state. There was diversity in the syllabus and curriculum as well.

This diversity was the biggest obstacle for domestic and foreign capital. For them, education is a market for making profits. Students are the consumers for them. In order to invest capital and earn profits, the most important thing was to ensure the movement of maximum students (consumers). To connect them to the global market. Without the common system, it could not have become a market. It required a single common system - adapted to the global market. To ensure this common system, the semester system was fixed. For this, a system of evaluation called the credit system and along with it the general system of CBCS was implemented.


All this was being implemented on the instructions of the World Bank and GATS(General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs). Education – which was not trade and services until now – had to be brought under its purview. If the government provides financial allocation to its institutions, then it will also have to be given to the institutions run by private capital. 'Equal level playing field' means that both should be given equal land to play. This simply means for developing countries to end government subsidies.

During the Manmohan Singh government, Kapil Sibal, along with Delhi University, had laid the foundation stone of this system. The semester system was implemented. There were protests, but the help of the courts was taken to enforce this system. Only after that, was FYUP i.e., four-year undergraduate programme implemented. There was a huge mass movement against it. All political parties had to support it. BJP was there too. Prakash Javadekar came on the stage of the Delhi University Teachers Association not once but several times and stood in support of the movement. Everyone promised to end FYUP in their election manifesto.


Most of the new education policy that has been brought into higher education today has been implemented by UGC and government office orders in the last 15 years. The role of the UGC has been to provide grants to educational institutions as well as to set their 'academic standards'. Apart from this, another important role of UGC has also been that of regulatory authority to maintain the quality of higher education. From the salary of teachers and staff to the minimum educational qualification for their appointment or the fee of students - UGC has been playing the role of standardisation.

Today all these roles of UGC have been abolished by the policies suggested by NEP. The board of governors (BOG) is an alternative to UGC. The NEP talks about giving autonomy to all institutions. Autonomy means the end of financial dependence on the UGC. Now the loan model from HEFA has been made instead of a financial grant from UGC. The alternative to a grant is a loan. The process of repaying the loan with interest means an unprecedented increase in the fees of the students. From financial management to the courses run by the institutes, fees structure, appointment of teachers, and their service conditions, all the decisions will be taken by the BOG itself. From pay commission to promotion, all the criteria for academic and non-academic posts, which was the role of the UGC, have now been abolished and handed over to the BOG. Every institute will have its own BOG. In such a situation, the central role of control of educational qualification and quality, which till now was done on the basis of norms set by the UGC, will now be a victim of complete decentralisation and commercialisation. All the recruitments will be on a contract basis. The contract system is the NEP model of profit-making through BOG for high fees and low costs.


The sector of education should be for-profit and the government should not invest in it - NEP is committed to taking it in this direction. There is tremendous emphasis on online education in NEP to reduce the cost of making profits. SWAYAM which has been started for online education has been linked with regular education. Even after enrolment for regular education in various institutions, up to 60 per cent of all students have been given the option of online study. Along with this, 40 per cent online option has been kept in each paper of the regular course. This is called blended mode. In the era of Corona and lock-down, we have seen the condition of online education. Online can never be an alternative medium of education. Technology can and should be used to make education better, but making it optional is actually being done to reduce the expenditure on the condition of education.


Be it an online SWAYAM course or blended mode regular course - be it private institutes or public institutes - four years multiple exit course is being implemented in all. It is being implemented first in the central universities, then it will be implemented in the states. For this enrolment through CUET has been started. A certificate will be given in one year, a diploma in two years, a degree in three years and a degree with research in four years. A student can leave one institution and do a semester in another institution. It can be done online as well as on regular basis.


To make all the institutions autonomous and provide degrees to consumer-oriented students in which the new format with multiple exits is applicable - for this, an academic bank has been created which is called ABC i.e., Academic Bank of Credit. UGC has forced all central universities as well as all private and public institutions to connect with it. Otherwise, their recognition has been threatened with termination. This is an online system. All institutions will upload the credits received by their students to ABC. Whatever credit the student will get from one institution to another or from regular to online, it will continue to be deposited in this bank and the student will be awarded the degree on this basis.


Online mode, blended mode, multiple exits, and movement from one institution to another - all will have a direct result on the workload of the teachers. Unless the workload is fixed, a permanent appointment is not possible. The labour code with a fixed-term post based on the demand and supply in the market is also clear here. Today the same situation can be seen in the recruitment of teachers and in the army. This is the business model of NEP by leveraging technology and converting permanent appointments into contracts to reduce costs and collect higher fees from students.


Education, which was placed under the state in the constitution, was placed on the Concurrent List during the Emergency. Today it has been completely centralised through the National Education Policy. The authority of the states has been greatly limited through National Education Commission, ABC, HEFA, CUET etc. Congress had also tried to implement this model of commercialisation, but due to the lack of a majority in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, it could not succeed in doing so. The effect of the BJP's majority is that today it is implementing NEP arbitrarily. So far it has not even been brought up for debate in parliament. Along with the centralisation, the policy of communalisation is being imposed in the whole country through NEP continuously even in the syllabus and courses.